Monday, 29 August 2016

15th of August - Launceston

A little water feature
So now we come to the final day of my visit to Tasmania. It is here that I must confess to the dutiful reader that this day did not begin in the highest of spirits, owing to the impromptu pub challenge I had undertaken the night before. Despite a rather sore head, I pulled myself from my small bed in the hostel to enjoy whatever sights I could on a Monday in Launceston.
Some variety of fountain
Leaving my luggage with the hostel, I promptly began a lengthy ramble through the city in search of the biggest, greasiest breakfast I could find. And it was a long journey which, despite the advice of several tourist information centres and even a passer-by who happened to overhear my quest, I found none of the cafes I was directed to to have the kind of breakfast I was after. Eventually I consulted, as I should have from the very beginning, the internet. After traversing nearly the whole city centre again, I arrived at the cafe I had looked up, and was not disappointed - the breakfast served here was indeed enormous, and suitably greasy. So much so, in fact that I - I am quite ashamed to admit - was not able to finish it. But, with a full stomach and somewhat subdued hangover, I was content enough to embark on my sightseeing journey proper.
Macaca Fuscata
Stopping briefly by the occasional fountain or water feature, I slowly made my way to the City Park. In addition to being a lovely green spot with pagodas, a conservatory, duck pond and monkeys. Yes, the attentive reader did not mis-read that. The City Park in Launceston is home to a troupe of macaque monkeys gifted from the sister city in Japan. However, I regret to inform the astounded reader, that the monkeys do not, in fact, run around wild and free, where they can climb into people's hair or steal their peanuts. No, they are confined safely in a natural enclosure as one might see at a zoo.
After enjoying the monkeys' antics for some time I continued leisurely through the park, taking my time to enjoy the conservatory and the duck pond, then went to the Automotive museum, which finds itself just across the road.
While the building is relatively small, the collection housed therein is reasonably impressive (at least for one who is inclined to enjoy such things), however it is not something that can really be translated into an engaging blog post, so that is all I will say about that.
And so I come to the final stop of my adventure through Tasmania - the Boag's brewery, for after this stop my time was up and I caught my flight back to the mainland. And here my luck with tours finally took a positive turn, and I was able to actually be guided through their facilities. In fact, the group was rather intimate, with only one other couple taking part (in addition to the guide of course). Unfortunately, and presumably much to the eager reader's disappointment, no pictures were allowed, but as one who works at another, smaller brewery (albeit in the restaurant, not making the beer itself), I was suitably impressed by the size and scale of Boag's, as I was led through one enormous chamber of whirring, complicated machinery to the next. It is always amusing and interesting to note how small, in comparison to sections such as bottling and lagering, the actual brew floor is, consisting of a handful of relatively modest (though still quite huge) stainless steel vessels. The bottling floor, in contrast, is reminiscent of a giant, industrial, adult version of Willy Wonka's Chocolate factory. After the tour, of course, we were treated to a tasting of their small range. Small, that is, in comparison to the veritable smorgasboard of beers offered by the craft brewery I work at. My predilection toward craft beer unfortunately meant that the comparatively simple and crisp flavours produced by Boag's were not quite to my palate, but I would definitely not say that I did not appreciate the tasting, especially as the beers were all paired with cheeses, which I always enjoy.
But then it was time to go home, so I departed to my hostel to pick up my luggage, then caught the shuttle to the airport - where, to my surprise I found myself sitting the the terminal directly next to the same couple that went on the tour with me.

And so closes another chapter in my holidaying experience. I bid my loyal reader goodbye, until next I go travelling!

Friday, 26 August 2016

14th of August - up through the middle to Launceston

Now we are nearing the end of our Journey, and the day chronicled in this post is the penultimate of my whole trip, and the last I would spend with Ally before she would head off to her uni business.
Australia's oldest bridge
Much of the day was spent travelling north from Hobart through the middle of Tasmania, stopping, as was our wont, at any interesting localities we happened to pass on the way. The first stop we made was at a town called Richmond, which by all accounts was a very pretty spot with many beautiful and quaint cottages. It also boasts the oldest bridge in Australia - one built by convicts in 1823, and another reminder of that aspect of our country's past.
Also at this town, we stopped at a bakery for a mid-morning snack, and I finally was able to indulge in what Ally had been assuring me was a typically Tasmanian delicacy, and one which I had so far failed to locate on our travels, namely a curried Scallop pie.
I'm sure the discerning reader will agree it sounds quite an unusual culinary combination, and while I must admit it is probably not to everybody's taste, I found it rather palatable.
Oatlands Windmill
The next stop on our long road back north was the rather peculiarly (and, as it turns out, aptly) named Oatlands. This town's attraction is a large windmill, reminiscent of many seen in the Netherlands, and it seemed the area was rather proud of its milling and grain producing heritage, as there were all manner of authentically produced and milled items to buy at the local shop.
Unfortunately time did not permit a lengthy sojourn, and we were not able (again) to take the tour of the building, so there is little else I can say about it at this time. The reason for our haste was we had one last major attraction to visit before the southern winter sun vanished and left it an impossibility. We hurried from the windmill north to Launceston and, after locating the Hostel I had hastily (and cheaply) booked for myself on the way there, and dropping off my luggage, we headed to Launceston's premiere natural attraction - Cataract gorge.
Cateract Gorge
Much is said about the gorge, and how fabulous it is to have such a thing of natural beauty so close to such a suburban hub. We enjoyed it in the last rays of the sun, taking the chairlift across it one way, on the other side of which we stopped at a kiosk to make a quick lunch of wedges, pies and soup, which the Ostentation of Peacocks which strolled the gardens and walking paths on that side of the gorge presently and insistently tried to beg and steal from our very hands. Returning to the other side of the gorge and our car, we crossed via an adventurous and exciting, narrow, shaky, hanging wooden bridge.
Finally I was dropped off at my hostel by Ally and miss V--, and I proceeded to head in to the city to discover what kind of night life one could expect on a Sunday night. My rambles through its streets could lead one to assume I had taken up my pub challenge again, as I visited four on this evening, before settling on one Royal Oak, where an irish style music session kept me entertained until I stumbled back to my hostel and in to bed.

Thursday, 25 August 2016

13th of August - Hobart and Port Arthur

On this day another traveler joined our posse. Ally had arranged for a friend of hers to join us for the last few days of the journey, as the two had uni related business together in Tasmania after the trip. So on the morn of this day, we went to Hobart airport and picked up miss V-- to then spend the morning and afternoon in that said city.
Our first destination was the famous Salamanca markets. As one accustomed to other types of markets and fairs, I must admit I was taken aback somewhat. Here, instead of the endless stalls of the same cheap trinkets mainlanders apparently enjoy immensely, there were but a vast variety of fine Tasmanian produce, handmade wares, and generally goods one may actually want to buy. I imagine anybody with a less hardy nature would have been quite aggravated at their complete inability to gripe and moan about the quality of the market. My main complaint, however, was a lack of money and luggage space to purchase everything I wanted.
Cascade Brewery
Subsequent the market, we proceeded to that other great attraction of Hobart and the South of Tasmania - the Cascade Brewery.
Myself working toward entering the brewing business, it was of quite some interest to me, and the ancient and venerable building that housed the brewery was  certainly a sight to behold, being loomed over by mount Wellington, its head in the clouds. However, we were proven disappointed - our intention had been to take part in the tour, but alas! it was fully booked when we arrived. So instead we tarried some time in the bar, tasting this and that beverage, and took a few picturesque photos in the gardens, then moved on.
Our next adventure was also of the alcoholic kind, as we returned to the city and visited the Lark pub. Again this venture had a degree of disappointment with it - we had thought, upon reaching the building, that it would be the distillery (although I thought it strange given how small the building was), and we could go on a tour here instead. Unfortunately it was but a pub owned by the Lark Whisky brand. Nevertheless we had an excellent time, being regaled by the barkeeper on the history and qualities of the Whisky they produce - one which, despite its relatively short existence, has gone to become one of the best and most celebrated in the world.
Our final stop on this day was Port Arthur - the famous convict settlement in the south east of the island. Here we went to take part in an after-hours ghost tour. Such a thing normally appeals to me in theory (though I wished we could have visited first in daylight hours to gain a more complete appreciation of the complex, but one cannot do everything in the limited hours the day grants one), but I regret to say that I have discovered years of hard-baked skepticism have rendered me practically immune to ghost stories.
The guide - a kindly matronly character who seemed like a friendly aunt - assured us that on nearly all of her tours "something happens" (by which she certainly meant something supernatural). The closest thing to a supernatural occurance, I regret to inform the eager reader, that I feel occurred during this tour was this: Ally and miss V-- had purchased before the commencement of the tour two hot beverages (a soy latte and a hot chocolate). Before entering the parishioner's house, where we were to be told a number of eerie stories, they were told to leave their cups outside. They placed the said containers on the ground next to the path inside, but when we exited the former dwelling, the two ladies were shocked to see only one cup still remained. The excitement, however, was short lived, as it was immediately discovered that the missing beverage container had merely fallen backward into a gutter.

Monday, 22 August 2016

12th of August - Bruny Island

The day chronicled in this blog post commenced with something of a disappointment. We had hoped to catch a ferry across to Maria Island, which lies some way to the south of Freychinet, and participate in a few more walks there, and the previous day had indeed called the ferry in the hopes of securing two seats. The gentleman I spoke with already seemed unhopeful of our success, as at that time all the spots were already spoken for, though he did assure me he would call should the situation change and somebody change their plans. Some time later in that day (shortly before arriving at our accomodation) I received a rather perplexing phone call. Upon answering it I was met by, at first, silence, then a somewhat bewildered woman who thought I had called her. Evidently there had been some kind of error where she had dialed my number (probably the last in the call list) without realising it. For it was indeed the same number I had called earlier in my fruitless attempt to book the ferry, and the ensuing strange conversation only further confirmed the afore stated situation.

A little cove on the walk to the Gulch
Nevertheless, on the next day (the very one this post is intended to be about) we headed to the ferry in the hopes that somebody would not show up. But alas! This was not to be, and we found ourselves waiting at the departure point in vain. "No matter", we told ourselves with resolve, for we had already formulated a backup plan. One way or another we would visit an island that day, and by Jove we would go on a walk! So we hopped in our car and expedited slantways, southwest, through Hobart and to the ferry for Bruny Island, where, the website assured us, we would have no trouble catching the boat. And indeed we were able to cross without problem, and soon found ourselves merrily driving through the island, stopping at every enticing locality that sold local cheese, beer or chocolate that we saw (and Bruny, like the rest of Tasmania, has no shortage of such places) until we arrived at the beginning of the most appropriate walk we were able to research in such a short time.
The Gulch, with Penguin Island on the right

The walk in question, in retrospect, sounds more like the plot of a pirate story - we were to trek across the dark sands passed adventure bay, ford a river then traverse muddy tracks through the forest along the shoreline until we reached the ruins of the whaler's hut. Then we could round the (I assume) nameless cape until we reached the Gulch, with Penguin Island on its far side. Thinking on it now, I regret not braving the freezing waters of the Gulch to climb upon that island, as I am certain it must have had some buried treasure. But we were on the lookout for a different kind of treasure, of the natural kind. Bruny island, you see, is home to a very rare kind of Wallaby - namely one with white fur, which exists nowhere else in the world.
More scenery around the Gulch
Though the cape, the Gulch and the Island were beautiful, in that wild, rugged way much of Tasmania is, we slowly despaired of sighting this elusive creature. We kept our eyes open on the whole trip back, and nearly gave up. But fortune, it would seem, was on our side this day. Remember the river crossing on our way up, and the difficulty we had in keeping our feet dry, we decided on a different course of return - namely through a vacant caravan park undergoing refurbishment.

The best picture I could take of the White Wallaby
Despite the signs warning us it was a construction site, we persevered, and I still cannot believe my luck, but at the far end I spotted it! A white Wallaby! Both of us managed to take a number of quite blurry pictures of it, but as one can imagine they are shy creatures, and it disappeared into the bush before we could get close.
Nevertheless we were elated at this encounter, which kept us from being entirely dejected as our bad luck with ferries continued - we just missed the second last ferry back by about five minutes, and the final one for the evening would not come for another hour. Well, so be it. It had nonetheless been a superb day, and we did not regret having come here instead of Maria.

Wednesday, 17 August 2016

11th of August - More Freychinet

Oh dear, it seems I had become quite recalcitrant and lackadaisical in the maintenance of my blog for the last few days of my stay in Tasmania. I shall have to endeavor to bring its state back up to date as promptly as possible.

In this post, then I shall be recounting my adventures where I left off.
Me and the cessna
On the very next day, we headed off rather early in order to catch a plane we had booked, more or less on a whim, the day before. No, we hadn't suddenly decided to return home, fed up with the Apple Isle! This was a charter service to fly us around and give us the best views of Freycinet national park. This being the first time in a small propeller plane for both of us (the machine in question was a Cessna), we both had certain emotions about the flight. However, while Ally's were trepidation, mine were excitement. However, Ally soon came around to my own attitude as we took off and she beheld it was not as frightening as she had anticipated.
And what can one say about such a flight? It was spectacular, and the pilot very knowledgeable and informative.
Wineglass bay from the air
If you are yet ignorant of the nature of the national park, I shall endeavor to explain it to you. It comprises of an extended peninsula on the east coast of Tasmania of nearly unspoilt wilderness. It was established as a national park over 100 years ago, making it one of the two oldest such parks in Australia. It also has one of the two best beaches in the country - Wineglass bay, which is only accessible via an hour-and-a-half walk. Other beaches (arguably as beautiful) are also to be found on the peninsula, but they are even more remote, requiring a full days' hike to reach. However, with our small plane we were able to see them both within the short space of half an hour.
Freycinet from the air

How many seals can you spot?
Following our safe return, we proceeded to complete a handful more short walks in said national park. The first, at Cape Tourville, led over a series of boardwalks around a cliff and a squat lighthouse. It also presented us with an excellent view, via a set of handy binoculars set up for the use of passers by such as us, of a group of rocky islands which is a favoured spot for seals. Of those creatures, we fancied we could spy one or two lounging near the water, but we cannot be sure.

I considered moving in, but the wi-fi is not great.
The next walk was somewhat longer and led us past the so-called Sleepy Bay to Gravelly beach, an appropriately named little cove where the sand was comprised of pieces of granite broken off nearby boulders. Two such boulders lay at the far end, with interesting holes cut in to them by the action of the sea, which makes for perfect photo opportunities.
Scrambling up the rocks behind these boulders, I found the opportunity to ramble much further along the coastline, climbing over craggy granite. Had I been travelling alone I may have considered it, but Ally was not as keen to go exploring off the beaten path.

Gravelly beach
Friendly Beaches
Finally we concluded our tour of the region with a visit to Friendly beaches. As we had decided against going to Wineglass bay due to time constraints (and given the weather was hardly suitable for beach activities), this proved to be a decent compromise. One of the things that makes the beaches in the area so beautiful is the high silicone content of the sand, making it incredibly white. This is true as much of Friendly Beaches as it is of Wineglass bay, and I believe we were suitably dazzled by its whiteness.

Promptly we continued our journey to our next accommodation, stopping in the town of Swansea on the way to make a delicious lunch of salt and pepper squid, and with another brief interlude to view an ancient bridge (by colonial Australian standards) built by convicts. Thereafter we made it to our rather miserable (but cheap) hotel and retired, both being rather exhausted.

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

Bicheno to Freycinet

Today was, in many ways, a repeat of the one two days ago - signified primarily by walks and punctuated by seeing wildlife, but overall being rather unsuitable for a lengthy and detailed post.
Our first visit was to Whaler's Lookout in Bicheno - a picturesque spot upon a little hill at the end of a short walk.

View from Whaler's Lookout
A moment before I am swept out to sea, never to be seen again.
Coles Bay
Directly afterwards we headed to the beach to appreciate the local blowhole, before continuing southward (hastily booking this night's accommodation on the way) and enjoying Coles bay, and then taking a walk through Freycinet National Park (where we saw some very bold Wallabys) to Wineglass Bay Lookout.

A very cute Wallaby
Wineglass Bay

Tuesday, 9 August 2016

Cross country

Now to finally catch up to the actual date. The events of today represented little more than a transit from Cradle Mountain to Bicheno on the east coast of Tasmania.
On our passage from thence to here, we did make several stops, but they were all related to the sampling and purchase of food and drink goods, which this island is famous for.
First we stopped at a dairy to buy some cheese, then we went in a long and fruitless search for Wallaby steak (settling instead for Wallaby Mince with which we cooked a delicious bolognaise), thereafter we visited a winery where Ally purchased a Merlot (and I actually discovered one or two wines I was able to tolerate), next we visited a purveyor of fine sauces, mustards and jams (where we bought several jars of their delicious wares), and our final stop before reaching our accomodation was the Iron House brewery, which was somewhat more to my tastes than the wine from earlier.

Tomorrow, however, should prove to be more eventful.